Owl, Times Three

On nights in North Philadelphia when many of his undergraduate peers studied or socialized, Dillan Patel, CST ’17, FOX ’20, MED ’21, was on a very different mission. Volunteering as an emergency medical technician (EMT) with Temple University Emergency Medical Services, Patel patrolled Main Campus and would often be the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency.

30 Under 30 2022 award winner Dillan Patel.
Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

Behind the wheel

With many family members in medicine, Patel always felt destined to pursue the field. His experiences as an EMT confirmed it.

“It was my first glimpse of patient interaction,” Patel said. “They were so appreciative of the little things you do for them, how you talk to them and bridge the gap between home and hospital.”

Some eight years later, Patel is the one wearing the white coat. After earning a biology degree, Patel stayed at Temple, graduating with both an MBA and a medical degree. He also remained at Temple University Hospital for his residency, with plans to become a practicing ophthalmologist.

His motivation—helping people—sounds strikingly familiar. “The simplest eye problems to fix are also a leading cause of blindness,” Patel said. “Surgery can be performed in just 15 or 20 minutes and can basically restore a patient’s vision to 20/20.”

Eyes on the prize

It takes resolve and grit for any student to persevere through the 12 years of study and residency required to become a doctor. It takes something else to pursue every opportunity the way Patel has.

As vice president of the Temple chapter of the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, Patel led a group of students to Peru. They rode eight hours on a bus to an impoverished mountain town, where they provided basic healthcare services like screenings and dental care instruction.

“People walked miles to get their blood pressure checked, and were listening intently to everything we had to say,” Patel said.

As a med student, he volunteered at local schools like Kenderton Elementary near Temple Hospital to tutor math and science, and conducted a “doctoring 101” class, complete with a white coat ceremony for his pupils. He also dabbled in research, studying acupuncture techniques to assess its potential for lowering intraocular eye pressure for the treatment of glaucoma.

Through it all was endless studying for classes. But Patel embraced that, too. “Temple makes you work really hard,” he said. “But the hard work pays off. You end up where you need to be.”

Dillan at a Glance

Answering the call

When his four-year residency is complete, Patel is thinking about more. He aspires to become a retinal surgeon, which requires several more years of specialized education. 

Ultimately, he also could see a jump into healthcare administration, where the MBA he received concurrently with his medical degree would be especially applicable.

He’s open to pursuing these challenges in a new city. But if the opportunities keep presenting themselves on North Broad? 

“I would be more than thrilled to stay right here in Philly,” Patel said.